Bryan Matthew Dockens
With the summer travel season well underway, it is appropriate that we lend
our attention to the Christian’s responsibilities as a traveler. Just as the
average person will create a checklist of things to do and to pack before
departure, let us consider what we, as godly people, ought to accomplish before
leaving for vacation.
A sound church has been located in the vicinity of the destination. Long before the room is reserved or the flight is booked, one must verify that a sound church meets near where he will be staying.
The Christian is never permitted to forsake the assembling of the saints (Heb. 10:25), but the temptation to do so is never so strong as it will be on vacation. All too often, brethren visiting from out of town fail to attend a local church’s scheduled Lord’s Day morning Bible study, neglect evening worship, and never stop to consider midweek Bible study. Do these people think that they’re on vacation from God? Forsaking is forsaking regardless of whether school is in session or work will be done that week. In order to prepare for prompt arrival to every assembly of the local church, the traveling Christian should contact the brethren in the area of his destination and confirm every scheduled meeting time of the church, as well as how to get there.
Not only must the saint on holiday verify the local church’s schedule, but he is likewise required to confirm the soundness of the church he intends to participate with. That a particular directory lists a “church of Christ” near the destination in no way assures the traveler of that church’s doctrinal integrity. Every brother must care that the church he chooses to meet with is one whose candlestick has not been removed by the Lord (Rev. 2:5), for when one associates with those in error, he shares in their evil (2 Jn. 10-11). Ignorance in this regard is inexcusable (Acts 17:30); therefore, investigation is necessary! When calling ahead for directions and meeting times, the traveler should be prepared to ask several questions relating to the practices of that church: are finances collected and distributed in an authorized way; is the music in worship limited to singing; do the women keep their place; is the truth upheld concerning the doctrine of divorce and remarriage; are false teachers and disorderly brethren withdrawn from? These and many more questions can and should be asked to ascertain that the church in question is, in fact, a faithful group of brethren. Those who answer incorrectly cannot be expected to be faithful, nor can we depend on those who refuse to answer. Only those churches which provide accurate answers, with a scriptural basis, should be accepted as ones with whom we can confidently assemble.
If the area one is traveling to lacks a faithful church, what recourse is the Christian provided? Shall he gather with those who identify themselves as a “church of Christ,” even though he has already concluded that they are unsound? God forbid that anyone ever deliberately share in the evil deeds of others (2 Jn. 10-11)! Assembling with a denomination won’t do because that would still be “forsaking the assembling of ourselves” (Heb. 10:25); “ourselves” referring to Christians. May he then gather with other Christians in his caravan to partake of the Lord’s Supper together since Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20)? This will not do because the Lord’s Supper should only be observed when you come together as a church (1 Cor. 11:18). This will not do because, in the scripture cited, Jesus spoke to His apostles, conferring upon them His power of binding and losing (Matt. 18:18-20); He did not say that where two or three Christians are gathered together in His name that He recognizes the existence of a local church! A handful of traveling brethren who have stopped along the road to observe the Lord’s Supper does not constitute a church. Might such a group take up a collection upon the first day of the week, as a church is required to do (1 Cor. 16:1-2); if so, what would they do with the funds? Would this group be prepared to appoint an eldership to oversee the flock (Acts 14:23; Tit. 1:5) in the hour or less of its existence? No, beloved, churches don’t spring up along the side of the road or in motel rooms for one Lord’s Day, then vanish. The very idea is absurd.
So, in the absence of a faithful church proximal to one’s vacation destination, what should the traveler do? To begin with, he can reconsider his choice of a vacation spot, or the trip can be planned so that a Sunday absence is avoided.
Local responsibilities have been addressed prior to departure. Before leaving town it is not unusual to arrange for mail to be held and to ask a neighbor to feed the pets. In like manner, a Christian must see that matters are tended to in the church of which he is a member prior to his departure.
As saints, “each one” must “lay” something aside “on the first day of the week” (1 Cor. 16:2). This responsibility is a local one. In anticipation of an absence from the church of which one is a member, locally, he should prepare his contribution in advance and arrange for it to be collected while he is away. If the vacationing saint wishes to contribute to the church he visits while away, so be it, but he should not neglect the needs of the group he belongs to, especially when that church is so small that ones contribution makes a noticeable impact.
Vacations should be arranged far enough in advance that rotating duties in the local church can be planned for. Whether the traveler is the assigned song leader or has volunteered for building maintenance that month, he should see to it that there be no scheduling conflicts. Why would one voluntarily sign up for such a responsibility knowing that he will be absent during the time he has agreed to carry out such a work? In the event that such scheduling conflicts become unavoidable, the traveler has a duty to see to it that another brother lead the singing or another family clean the building. Were the preacher to leave on vacation, he would be expected to arrange for someone to speak in his place; similarly, let every member meet his own obligations.
Necessities have been packed. Few travelers take pleasure in the realization, upon arrival, that they have forgotten some necessary item, whether it be a toothbrush, socks, or a camera. Likewise, no Christian should travel without the materials integral to his conduct as a saint.
It is absolutely pathetic to observe how many brethren visit a church, while passing through town, who have neglected to bring their own Bible. Some of these forgetful Christians are just conscientious enough to borrow a Bible provided by the church they visit, but oftentimes such people lack the interest to even open a Bible during worship. When traveling, the Christian needs to bring his own Bible, because it’s not just for use during the assemblies of the church! What those who forget to pack a Bible are telling us, is that they don’t read their Bibles during the week. If they have to borrow one from the church they visit, then they don’t have one to use during the rest of the trip! Unlike the noble Bereans, these people fail to “search the scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11), and yes, it is a daily task! Without daily study, how can one prove diligence in an effort to present himself “approved before God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15)? How else may “the man of God...be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17) unless he puts forth the daily effort to examine the all-profitable scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16)? This obligation is not negated by the fact that he is on vacation!
Additional materials that expedite the study of scripture should not be forgotten either. Notebooks in which memory assignments have been recorded should be carried, as well. While sitting on a plane or train, these assignments can be reviewed leisurely. On road trips, one member of the family can quiz the rest on their Bible knowledge, thus contributing to spiritual growth and relieving boredom simultaneously.
Much more can be written on this subject that is worthy of the reader’s attention; planning moral activities for instance, or remembering modesty in the warmer climates of certain destinations must not be neglected. Nevertheless, these oft forgotten matters merit the consideration of every Christian anticipating travel.